EMERSON PROCESS MANAGEMENT REGULATOR TECHNOLOGIES, INC. (McKinney, TX)

Systems, apparatus, and methods are designed for making a diaphragm by using printing techniques that are three-dimensional.

Many actuators for industrial and other valves have a diaphragm to sense and/or react to changes in the pressure inside the actuator or valve in order to regulate the valve. In time, or through frequent use diaphragms wear out and will require replacement or changed. It is sometimes possible to switch between various types of diaphragms. In any event, changing or repairing the diaphragm needs the valve and/or actuator to be dismantled, which causesthe valve to become inoperable for a amount of time.

In industrial processes, a variety of valves require maintenance in a way that minimizes downtime. In order to minimize downtime and minimize downtime for valves, it is important to perform maintenance as soon as possible. Common processes for manufacturing diaphragms like molding, forming, or over-molding, however, typically require expensive tools and lengthy lead times prior to the first diaphragm being ever manufactured. It is essential to buy the adiaphragm prior to disassembling an actuator in order to plan and carry out maintenance of a valve within the industrial process line.

It isn’t always feasible to obtain the required lead time needed for the purchase of the diaphragm. It is possible to not have the required lead time to obtain an actuator needs an immediate replacement diaphragm. In this situation, it would be beneficial to have a method to obtain a diaphragm, specifically, one that is not standard, without having to wait for the lead and tooling times that are that are currently common in the market.

The present disclosure provides systems, apparatus, and methods that, in some configurations, are directed towards making a diaphragm by using three-dimensional ( 3-D) printing techniques or similar additive manufacturing methods.

A method for manufacturing diaphragms that can be utilized in an actuator is explained by some aspects. It involves printing at minimum one piece of the diaphragm by using a three-dimensional printer. It is possible to create the entire diaphragm by using the help of a 3-D printing machine or just a small portion of it with a 3-D printer. This is a benefit of being able form diaphragms in a short time and decrease or even eliminate extended durations for getting a diaphragmand/or reduce tooling costs to create a diaphragm. Such a method may be useful in research, development, production, and maintenance phases by significantly reducing the wait time and expense to produce a diaphragm, and in particular,non-standard diaphragms.

In certain instances, several materials may be printed at once while creating an adiaphragm. In this manner, purely a first material may be printed, while a second one could be printed, or a gradient of the first and secondmaterials may be printed. Similarly, if there are three or more different materials printed, any one of the materials may be printed as a single item and/or a gradient combination of any two or more materials could be printed. The first material might have greater flexibility and a lower tensile force similar to rubber. While the second material may be more flexible and possess a lower tensile value, it may also be more flexible. This is similar to fabric. The first material could possess a first elasticity however, the second one may have a second elastic which is different from the first. The two materials can be bonded together and cured at a microscopic level during the process of printing. This could allow diaphragms from a near infinite variety of materials and/or structures to be produced easily and cheaply.

An infrastructure can be designed and integrated into some arrangements. This could be used to improve flexibility and/or strength characteristics on an macro level. This may also allowdiaphragms of nearly unlimited mechanical properties to be constructed cheaply and quickly.

A method for making an actuator’s flexible diaphragm may include a 3D printer and an 3D model of the flexible dialm. The 3-D printer can use the model to make the diaphragm that is flexible. The printer in 3-D may be able of printing with different materials in certain instances. The printer can have two or more print cartridges. Each cartridge may contain adifferent material. The flexible diaphragm may have different mechanical properties depending on the materials used. The system can create a diaphragm that is flexible using several materials, and/or different mechanical properties in different areas.

Any one or more of these aspects may be combined with any one or more of the other aspects and/or additional aspects, arrangements, features, and/or technical effects that are apparent upon detailed inspection of the figures and the followingdescription.

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